- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wyoming has become the sixth state to permit desperate patients to try promising lifesaving treatments that are still in the investigative stage.

Normally, terminally ill patients have to undergo a long application process to use products or treatments that have passed the Phase 1 of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process but have not been fully approved for public use or sale.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed the Wyoming Right to Try Act on Monday. The bill passed in February with near-unanimous support in both of the state’s legislative chambers.

The Wyoming law essentially permits terminally ill patients to override FDA rules and try experimental treatments or drugs. Physicians are protected from adverse legal action for suggesting such treatment.

“We all know the pain of losing someone we love to a terminal illness,” said Darcy Olsen, president of Goldwater Institute, the group leading the national, bipartisan push for “right to try” laws.

“If you know there’s a treatment that is helping people survive, who is anyone to say, ‘No, you don’t have the right to try to save your own life or to save your child’s life?’ ” she said.

Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and Arizona have right-to-try laws.

Similar bills in Arkansas, South Dakota and Virginia are awaiting a governor’s signature, and bills have passed in at least one state legislative chamber this year, the Goldwater Institute said.

The FDA has a process to allow people to use medicines before they are fully tested, but fewer than 1,000 people a year receive help, the think tank said.

Objections to these laws revolve around concerns that patients will be needlessly exposed to potentially harmful effects, and that premature use will undermine clinical research, according to Health Affairs Blog and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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